At a funeral on Thursday, colleagues of the slain clergyman – Reverend James Bivock and Reverend Habila Hamman – as well as families and sympathisers gathered to pay tributes to late Markus.
They said they have been in search of five clergymen whose bodies have yet to be found after an attack which took place some years ago.
They, however, said they were in dilemma between bandits and a section of the divided congregational members of the church regarding who perpetrated the attack.
In his reaction, the Director of Connectional Ministries Of UMC, Philip Micah, condemned the continuous attacks on members of the church.
He said the spate was alarming and called the government and security agencies in the state to ensure the security of the people.
A son of the late clergyman, Ayuba Markus, said justice was all that was needed and pleads for more security of lives and property.
The slain clergyman brings to 26 the number of gospel preachers murdered by bandits in Lau LGA.
Some of the several villages attacked by gunmen recently are Yitti, Bujum Waya, Yugorobi, Bujum Kasuwa, Bujum centre among others.
This has rendered the inhabitants of the affected communities in the local government homeless, thereby occupying no fewer than nine Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp with a population of over eight thousand persons.
Lau has been in the eye of the storm for years now, with several lives lost and property worth millions of naira destroyed.
Gunmen attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians in central Egypt on Friday, killing at least seven in the latest attack on a religious minority repeatedly targeted by jihadists.
The attackers opened fire on the bus in Minya, the province’s bishop told AFP.
The gunmen “killed seven people and wounded 14, all of whom are in the Sheikh Fadel hospital in Beni Mazar” around 200 kilometres (120 miles) south of Cairo, said Bishop Makarios of Minya.
A security official confirmed the attack, adding that there were “dead and wounded”.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the shooting.
Copts, a Christian minority that makeup 10 per cent of Egypt’s 96 million people have in recent years been repeatedly targeted by the Islamic State jihadist group.
IS killed more than 40 people in twin church bombings in April 2017 and a month later shot dead 28 Christians in Minya province as they headed to a monastery on a bus.
Egypt’s government imposed a countrywide three-month state of emergency after the April 2017 church bombings.
In December 2017 an IS gunman killed nine people in an attack on a church in a south Cairo suburb.
A year earlier, an IS suicide bomber killed almost 30 worshippers at a church in Cairo located in the Saint Mark’s Cathedral complex, the seat of the Coptic papacy.
The Egyptian army launched a major offensive in February 2018 against IS in the Sinai Peninsula, where the group has waged a deadly insurgency since the fall of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Alongside attacks against Copts, the jihadists have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen in Egypt in recent years and were allegedly behind a November 2017 attack against a mosque in north Sinai that killed more than 300 people.
The military offensive — Dubbed “Sinai 2018” — has killed more than 450 jihadists, according to an army estimate, while around 30 Egyptian soldiers have been killed during this year’s operation.
Egyptian authorities have also convicted jihadists for their role in attacks against Copts.
Last month an Egyptian military court sentenced 17 people to death over the suicide attacks against churches in 2016 and 2017.
Copts have long complained of discrimination in Egypt and IS is not the only group to have launched sectarian attacks against the community.
In December 2017, hundreds of Muslims attacked a church south of Cairo that had been operating without a permit for more than a dozen years.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court Wednesday overturned the conviction of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother facing execution for blasphemy, in a landmark case which has incited deadly violence and reached as far as the Vatican.
“The appeal is allowed. She has been acquitted. The judgment of the high court, as well as trial court, is reversed. Her conviction is set aside,” said Pakistan‘s Chief Justice Saqib Nisar in the ruling.
Bibi appeared to be in a state of disbelief after hearing the decision from her lawyer.
“I can’t believe what I am hearing, will i go out now? Will they let me out, really?” Bibi told AFP by phone from prison after the ruling.
“I just don’t know what to say, I am very happy, I can’t believe it.”
Blasphemy is an incendiary charge in deeply conservative Muslim Pakistan, where even unproven allegations of insulting Islam and its Prophet Mohammed can provoke a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.
Bibi was set to be released immediately according to the court, although there was no word if any security arrangements were being made for her protection.
Her legal team celebrated the court’s decision amid beefed-up security in Islamabad after religious hardliners had vowed to protest any acquittal of the case.
“The verdict has shown that the poor, the minorities and the lowest segments of society can get justice in this country despite its shortcomings,” Bibi’s lawyer Saif-ul-Mulook told AFP.
“This is the biggest and happiest day of my life.”
Her case drew the attention of international rights groups and swiftly became the most high-profile in the country.
Pope Benedict XVI called for her release in 2010, while in 2015 her daughter met his successor and the current head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis.
Freedom for Bibi in Pakistan, where university students have been lynched and Christians burnt in ovens over blasphemy claims, means a life under threat by hardliners, who regularly hold demonstrations calling for her execution.
The allegations against Bibi date back to 2009 when she was working in a field and was asked to fetch water. Muslim women, she was labouring with allegedly objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl.
The women went to a local cleric and accused Bibi of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed, a charge punishable by death under the colonial-era legislation.
During the appeal hearing on October 8, a three-member panel of Supreme Court justices appeared to question the case against her, with Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, considered Pakistan‘s top expert in criminal law, listing flaws in the proceedings.
“I don’t see any derogatory remarks vis-a-vis the holy Koran as per the FIR,” added Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, referring to the initial complaint filed in the case.
Approximately 40 people are believed to be on death row or serving a life sentence in Pakistan for blasphemy, according to a 2018 report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Leading rights groups have long criticised the legislation, saying it is routinely abused to justify censorship, persecution, and even murder of minorities.
In recent years, it has also been weaponised to smear dissenters and politicians.
Mere calls to reform the law have provoked violence, most notably the assassination of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan‘s most populous province Punjab, by his own bodyguard in broad daylight in Islamabad in 2011.
Taseer had also called for Bibi’s release. His assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, was executed in 2016 and has been feted as a hero by hardliners, with a shrine to him built by Islamists just outside the capital.
Taseer’s son Shahbaz tweeted “Pakistan Zindabad”, meaning “Long live Pakistan“, following the ruling.
Politicians including new prime minister Imran Khan invoked blasphemy during a general election this summer, vowing to defend the laws.
Analysts have warned the tactic could deepen sectarian fractures and potentially spill into violence.
An Indonesian Christian has been sentenced to four years in prison for a Facebook post that likened the prophet Muhammad to a pig in the latest conviction under a controversial hate-speech law.
Dozens of Islamic hardliners cheered and shouted: “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) as the court in Sumatra ruled that Martinus Gulo was hostile toward Muslims in his post, which also said Mohammed sanctioned bestiality.
The Medan District court on Tuesday ordered the 21-year-old university student to pay a fine of one billion rupiah ($70,000) or spend an additional six months in jail.
“Finding the defendant guilty of misusing information by offending believers through his Facebook account, I sentence him to four years,” said presiding judge Saidin Bagariang.
Gulo was convicted under Indonesia’s electronic information and transactions law, which makes it a crime to spread “hatred or animosity” against an individual or group based on their race or religion.
The law has been criticised for being unnecessarily vague and giving powerful individuals the ability to criminalise critics and minorities.
He was arrested in March after the militant Islamic Defenders Front reported his online post to police.
Gulo, who is Christian, told authorities that he made the post because he was upset that his own religion was criticised online.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, has significant numbers of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and other minorities.
Gulo’s conviction comes after a 39-year-old Muslim was sentenced to five years in April under the same law.
The court found him guilty of spreading hate speech for a Facebook post in which he claimed to have experienced God’s presence and questioned the faith of other Muslims.
Last year, Jakarta’s former governor — the city’s first Christian leader of Chinese descent — was sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy.
The case fuelled concerns that Indonesia’s moderate brand of Islam is coming under threat from increasingly influential radicals.
Christians across Nigeria have joined their counterparts globally to observe the Easter Sunday which is believed to signify the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion over 2,000 years ago.
Worshippers of various Christian denominations trooped out to their various churches to be part of the celebration.
It was a mood of intense worship and thanksgiving as Channels Television visited the Saint Michaels Cathedral in Kaduna state, Nigeria’s North West zone.
Delivering his Easter message, the Anglican Bishop of the state Diocese, Timothy Yahaya, noted that Easter is the beginning of eternal hope for mankind and therefore, called on Christians to imbibe the spirit of forgiveness against one another as exemplified by Jesus Christ.
He also urged political leaders to adopt a positive approach to governance by putting the interest of the masses above themselves.
The Christian faithful in Nasarawa state have been tasked to uphold the virtues of patience, tolerance and sacrifice as exemplified by Jesus Christ on the cross, to save mankind from eternal destruction.
The state Deputy Governor, Silas Agara, gave the task in his Easter good-will message as the faithful marked the 2017 Good Friday and Easter festivities.
According to him, the Easter season represents a period of self-denial, good neighborliness, sacrifice and higher spiritual attainment. He therefore urged adherents to sustain the spirit beyond the festivity for the good of humanity.
Furthermore, Mr Agara urged citizens to love one another and to live in peace with all, irrespective of their status, religion and ethnicity.
He rejoiced with all Nigerians and the people of Nasarawa in particular, on the solemn occasion on behalf of the Governor, Tanko Al-makura.
He also used the opportunity to call on security agencies to ensure safety of lives and property across the state during and after the celebration.
The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has implored the citizens to show more respect for the religious diversity in the state, which he said adds more strength.
He stated this position when he received a delegation from the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Edo state chapter led by its chairman, Mr Yusuf Bako, in Government House, Benin City, the Edo state capital.
The Governor said,”We have to respect our diversity that is the strength of the state, as all Nigerians are represented here in Edo state, the diversity is what has made us special and unique”.
He also maintained that the inter-religious body is needed now that the peace in country is being threatened by insecurity, adding that a regular meeting between the Christian and Muslim bodies constituted in the state early 2017 will help tackle the security challenges.
Earlier in his address, Mr Bako solicited for piece of land within Government House for the building of a mosque for Muslims to worship.
He equally appealed for allocation of a wider plot of land within the state capital for Muslims in the state to worship.
It was also convened to forestall any form of reprisal attacks in Kaduna State, and seek the support of the leaders in finding solutions to the Southern Kaduna crisis which has claimed so many lives.
Resident community leaders comprising of Igbo, Yoruba, Igala and others from various part of the country gathered at the Government House, on the invitation of the Kaduna State Government.
Speaking, Mr Bantex warned those trying to incite unnecessary tensions in the state as a result of recent events elsewhere to desist from circulating videos, images and making inciting comments.
He appealed to the community leaders to prevail on their subjects to uphold peace in the state, remain calm and firmly reject any attempt to drag them into any form of violent behaviour.
Enemies Of Peace
“Those trying to incite unnecessary tensions in the state because of what is happening in Ile Ife, Osun State should desist from circulating videos and images with inciting commentary and calls to citizens for reprisals.
“Already, the unfortunate incidents in that part of the country have been contained and taken care of, so the government will not watch enemies of peace capitalising on the situation to cause problems in Kaduna State, using images and videos to incite reprisals.
“People circulating images and calling for reprisals are enemies of peaceful society, and all citizens must say no to them.
“The Kaduna State Government is determined to ensure that anyone or group of persons distributing images and videos calling for revenge are arrested and prosecuted.
“Citizens must support the government to ensure that every threat to law and order in the state is defeated,” he said.
Speaking on the crisis in Southern Kaduna, the Acting Governor noted that the violence was purely an act of criminality and banditry, contrary to the Christian against Muslim crisis as widely believed.
According to him, the most peaceful local government area in Kaduna State is Jaba Local Government Area, which is one of the eight local governments that make up the ‘Zone Three’ called Southern Kaduna.
The leader of the Community Leaders Forum and President-General of Yoruba Traditional Rulers Council in the 19 Northern States, Abdulganiyu Oguntoyinbo, in his response said those responsible for the Ile Ife crisis did not represent the Yorubas as a people.
He urged the Yoruba community in Kaduna and Northern Nigeria to remain calm, peaceful and shun reprisal attacks.
“We are tired of blood spilling and we therefore appeal to our political, religious and traditional leaders irrespective of their differences to come together and find a lasting solution to the recurring crises,” Oguntoyinbo said.
While commending the Kaduna State Government for convening the meeting to acquaint them on the measures taken to protect lives and properties of citizens, especially the non-indigenes, he lauded the Governor, Nasir El-Rufai’s administration for the ongoing infrastructural development in the state.
Although the community leaders commended the recent steps taken by government and security agencies to end the attacks in Southern Kaduna, they expressed concern over the negative consequence of the crisis on the socio-economic development of the state.
Reports say so far, many lives and properties were reportedly lost in about 10 sectarian crises in Kaduna State in the past 30 years.
Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, worried about the state of the nation and President Muhammadu Buhari’s health, called for an interfaith prayer service.
Political, religious and traditional rulers from all the 33 local government areas of the state went beyond tribal, political and religious sentiments as they converge to pray for peace and well-being of the President, as he continues to receive medical treatment abroad.
Worried by the lingering spate of economic and security challenges facing Nigeria, Christian and Muslim leaders led an interfaith service at the Adamasingba Stadium, Ibadan to also offer prayers for progress, peaceful atmosphere in the country.
Some of the clerics at the event stressed the need for Nigerians to reconnect with God for the attainment of purposeful socio-economic development in the country.
Addressing the gathering, Governor Ajimobi expressed optimism that Nigeria will bounce back from recession within the next six months.
He lauded the initiative of the prayer session, stressing the importance of prayer for things to return to normal in Nigeria.
Nigeria Will Flourish Again
The governor maintained that though the leaders are trying their best to ensure that the situation gets back to normal, but the country needs divine intervention.
He expressed optimism that Nigeria’s economy would flourish again if the momentum of collective intellectual efforts were sustained.
”The first reason why we are praying is not only to make requests from God but to appreciate God as he decreed that when we call on him, he will hear us; the second reason is to pray for peace, unity, and progress.
“The crude oil market is improving, Nigeria is producing two million barrels per day and the price of crude is improving.
“With the way things are going, Naira will start improving within the next three to six months,” the governor said.
Commenting on the role of women, wife of the Oyo State Governor, Mrs Ajimobi, said ”the role of women is to pray for Nigeria and to imbibe discipline in our children to keep them away from trouble.
“If we instill the fear of God in them, they will continue to do the right thing”.
Spirit Of Positive Thinking
On his part, a former senator, Lekan Balogun, who is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, commended the organisers of the event for looking beyond political and religious barriers to pray for the peace of the country and recovery of the President.
Dignitaries from various political and religious extraction also laud the initiative which brought all and sundry together with a common purpose.
In his remark, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Community Relations, Abimbola Siyanbade, said Nigerians are known to be prayerful but the situation on ground calls for unity of purpose among religious leaders and their adherence to pray to God with oneness of spirit.
He said the event was put together for people of the state to pray for peace and progress in Nigeria.
Highlight of the event was prayer for the state, Nigeria and political leaders in the country among others.
Clerics admonished Nigerians to imbibe the spirit of positive thinking and attitudinal change towards leaders, calling on all to offer prayers for the President.
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Reverend Matthew Kukah, has called on Nigerian politicians to place service above personal benefits.
He says politicians have continued to undermine the interest of the ordinary Nigerian who gave them the opportunity to serve through the ballot.
The clergyman spoke to Channels TV on Sunday, after a church service to celebrate Fathers’ Day in Lagos State, southwest Nigeria.
“We still have not moved away from the culture of people who mistake public service for opportunities for self-enrichment.
“The reason why people asked to be elected is not to make money for themselves, they asked to be elected so that they can serve us and serve our country,” he said.
Bishop Kukah also said he doubts if the current crop of politicians would give Nigeria the required leadership to take it to the next level.
“You have so many people going to church and going to mosque and yet criminality, violence, corruption are all on the increase in our society.
“This is evidence of some of the things that are eroding our Christian values,” he said.
“When I hear politicians say we cannot develop in an environment of violence or in an environment that is volatile, politicians don’t understand that it is their irresponsible behaviour that is creating the tension and the anxiety,” he added.
In the spirit of Easter and the Lenten season, President Goodluck Jonathan held a breakfast meeting with members of the Abuja branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in his residence.
The breakfast meeting started with a prayer session led by the Chairman of the association, Reverend Israel Akanji.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the breakfast session, Rev Akanji said that the organized breakfast had been a tradition, describing this as a special one as it comes immediately after Nigeria’s presidential elections.
He also reacted to President Jonathan’s widely celebrated concession of defeat to General Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential election, particularly his phone call to congratulate the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate ahead of INEC’s official declaration.
Rev Akanji said that what President Jonathan had done was great, adding that whoever makes a sacrifice for the good of others will be elevated in due time.
The Reverend also described as heroic, the courage of President Goodluck Jonathan, who accepted the verdict of the election. He described the President’s action as sacrificial.